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[MD] Companies must disclose slaveholder coverage

To insure in Maryland, companies must disclose slaveholder coverage
Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
April 14, 2009 7:21 PM
ANNAPOLIS — Insurance companies wishing to do business in Maryland must disclose any policies they or their predecessor firms provided to slave owners until 1865, under legislation Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law Tuesday.

Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, the bill’s chief sponsor, said the new law is not about meting out punishment for long-ago wrongs but helping Americans gain a deeper understanding of the evils of slavery and to find peace with the nation’s checkered past.

“This is about becoming comfortable with our history,” said Gladden, D-Baltimore City. “This is about healing. Let’s move on.”

The law, formerly Senate Bill 751, requires insurance companies to disclose to the state’s insurance commissioner each of their slaveholder policies, including the name of the owner and the slaves.

The companies have until Oct. 1, 2011, to comply. The insurance commissioner will issue a report by April 1, 2012, containing those names as well as copies of the policies. The report will be made available to the public and posted on the Maryland Insurance Administration’s Web site.

The new law also requires that a copy of the report be kept at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland School of Law to honor the late black civil rights attorney and Supreme Court justice, Gladden said.

The senator credited three University of Maryland law students,
saying their assistance with drafting the legislation and lobbying for its enactment were essential to its becoming law.

Bryan Saxton, a third-year student, said insurance companies should not be intimidated or ashamed by the law’s requirements.

“It is good for them to be interested in truth and disclosure,” he said.

Michelle McLoud, a second-year student, said she hopes the insurance commissioner’s report spurs discussion about the slavery era.

“It’s important to get a dialogue going,” she said.

Amanda Yellon, a third-year student, joined Saxton and McLoud at the governor’s signing ceremony.

The students said they were inspired to support the legislation by University of Maryland law professor Sherrilyn Ifill, who teaches a seminar titled “Reparations, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice.”

Ifill said the new law recognizes that slavery was “a human rights violation that really was a complex financial and economic arrangement” underwritten by insurance companies.

California and Illinois already have similar laws, while Iowa asks insurers to supply the information voluntarily.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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